Battleborn is like a college graduate: it has a ton of heart and potential, but no real direction. During the time I spent with the game, I felt equal parts joy, frustration, and confusion. Battleborn has all of the quirks of Borderlands with half the charm, but even something half as good as Borderlands is still ahead of the curve.
Battleborn features a cooperative campaign and competitive multiplayer modes, the latter of which is by far the game’s strong point. The multiplayer modes are fast and franctic and feature varying degrees of strategy hidden beneath a simple objective. Capture is simplest (and frankly the most boring) of the multiplayer modes. Capture points A, B, and C and hold them to gain points, first team to 1000 wins. This game mode has been done 100 times before, and 10 times better. It almost seems like Capture was thrown in just to bring the total number of game modes up to 3. Meltdown is a bit more unique as players escort waves of AI minions to sacrificial grinders to earn points. It reminds me of Monday Night Combay a bit, which is not a bad thing. Coordination is key in this mode as players balance between actively attacking enemy players and pushing minion waves. It forced me to rethink my usual strategy of simply fighting enemy players like a deathmatch, and it was a welcome breath of fresh air. Incursion is the most complicated of the 3 game modes, to the point that I think it drives away inexperienced players. Each team has 2 massive sentries and incoming waves of minions, and the goal is to destroy the enemy’s sentries. It sounds simple on the surface, but there is so much going on in the background. Of the 3 game modes, Incursion is by far the strongest and draws the biggest crowd. Unfortunately, players looking for map variety will be disappointed with only 2 maps per mode. Fortunately, while the terrain remains the same, how players traverse it varies depending on which of the 25 playable characters they choose from.
Battleborn’s 25-character roster features a wide variety of unique characters. There are healers, snipers, shooters, brawlers, tanks, controllers, slashers, stabbers, fliers, and more. Not every character is for everyone though. I found some to be either confusing or downright annoying. But for every annoying character there are 2 more I enjoyed playing, and I won’t fault the game for having too many options. While the characters are fun to play as, they lack depth. Each character has a set of lore challenges that unlock some light reading material about each character’s back story, but these are locked from the start. So I have no idea who or what Attikus is until I complete his lore challenges. It would nice to know a little something about the character I’m playing as. Speaking of locked from the start, 19 of the 25 characters are locked until you complete a certain challenge or reach a certain level. It took my forever to unlock one of my favorite characters, which was a pain in the ass. Thankfully, I didn’t have to pay any extra money to unlock the other 19 characters.
Battleborn’s campaign is probably its weakest link. The story is there is only one star left in the universe, and everyone is fighting over it. The game’s antagonist, Rendain, is actively trying to extinguish the star and it’s up to you to stop him. The sounds like a good SyFy Original movie, but much like a SyFy Original it is executed poorly. Each mission has its own objective: capture a rogue AI, destroy an ancient superweapon protect a research facility, but most of the in-game objectives are “protect a thing from 2-3 waves of enemies.” It suffers from Destiny-syndrome where the gameplay is tight and fun, but the objectives are boring and repetitive. Up until the final boss fight Rendain only antagonizes the player through radio transmissions and sending underlings to fight for him. When I finally got the fight Rendain I had almost no motivation to do so. It’s a shame Rendain is such a bland villain because he seems to have real potential. He has bits of dialogue that hint at a more dynamic villain, but we never see that side of him. The ending of the “story” offers no closure and left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The campaign missions feel like bland, interchangeable set pieces, and most objectives boil down to “do this because this is a video game.”
I want to specifically make note of the Prologue. The Prologue is the most engaging part of the entire campaign. It has in-game cinematics as well as hand-drawn cutscenes before and after the mission. The in-game dialogue is directed at the player so you feel like you’re being talked to, not talked at. The other 8 campaign missions all open with the same sweeping visual accompanied by a disembodied voice just expositioning the hell out of the mission. Some missions literally cut to black at the end and take you right to the “Mission Complete” screen (which takes waaaaaay too long to go away, btw). Where are those awesome hand-drawn cutscenes?! I wouldn’t say I was upset with the campaign, just disappointed, not unlike your dad.
All in all, I enjoy Battleborn, and that’s really what video games come down to: enjoyment. It’s far from Game of the Year, but I’m also not going to stop playing it anytime soon.
Final Score: 7/10
Reincarnated as: a liberal arts graduate